Beta for Mescalito, Yosemite

by Rex Pieper

It's been called the "Big Daddy" of the Classic Trade Routes on El Cap and for good reason. This stellar line tackles one of the longest sections of the wall and ascends many very memorable features. There aren't any particularly really difficult pitches, but no real "gimme" pitches either. I liken the route to a never lets up until you crest the top.

The belay bolts are generally good (usually two 3/8") at every station except for the belay at the end of Pitch 12 and the belay at the end of Pitch 24, but you can link those pitches with others and bypass the bunk bolts. A lot of bad dowels/rivets on the route, but generally not as bad as we were led to believe.

We unintentionally did the route clean in May 1999 except for replacing two copperheads.


Big rack, but traversing nature of the route prevents a lot of backcleaning lest you cause serious problems for the Cleaner.

1 Beak
KBs: 1 ea. #3 to #5
LAs: 1 ea. #2 to #4 (I hand placed some)
Angles: 1 ea. 1/2" and 5/8", 1 ea. sawed off 1/2" to 3/4"
2 sets HB Brass Offsets
2 sets HB Aluminum Offsets
1 set Stoppers
1 ea. yellow and red Lowe Balls
2 ea. black and blue Aliens
4 ea. green to red Aliens
1 ea. Alien Hybrids
4 ea. .5 to #2 Camalots
2 ea. #3 Camalot
1 ea. #3.5 Camalot
2 ea. #4 Camalot
1 ea. #5 Camalot
1 ea. #3 and #4 Bigbro
2 ea. hooks including Leeper pointed and FISH
2 ea. Leeper Cam Hooks (Narrow and Wide)
15 rivet hangers including #1's
1 ea. Fish Doubloon
2 ea. Heads #1 to #4
1 ea. Circleheads #1 to #3
3-5 ea. Screamers are nice.
Bolt/Rivet Kit
1 slung 2" x 4" x 6" wood block for use on the "Bismark" is nice.
Cheatstick or "Equalizer" if short in stature or small in balls.
60m rope and haul line (no lowerout needed if haulline tied off short); Zipline is nice so you don't have to carry such a fat rack the full pitch.

Pitch by Pitch:

Ratings based upon Chris MacNamara's system where "A" denotes a dependency on fixed gear or nailing, while "C" can be done clean regardless of transient gear.

P1: (5.6, A2+, 130 feet) Lots of hooking between decent bolts. Some fixed heads near the end. Take a #2 Camalot for the move to the belay otherwise it's all hooks, bolts and heads.

P2: (C2, 120 feet) Easy crack to steep wall with manky heads. Gear to 2".

P3: (A3-, 140 feet) Topo shows a pendulum but it's not really necessary. Then some hooking and fixed heads to a fake belay. Keep going to real belay above some C2 climbing. Gear to 1.5".

P4: (A2+, 130 feet) Awkward and some bad rock. Watch rope drag. Gear to 3.5". Most parties fix to here on Day 1. Three 50m ropes and 2 stations to the ground.

P5: (A2+, 130 feet) Don't continue right. Instead head up crack w/ flaring scars. Some manky fixed heads here. Pitch seeps water. Gear to 3". Nice ledge, but don't bivy here like we did. Come sundown the flakes above the ledge open up and it will literally rain on you all night.

P6: (A3, 100 feet, circuituous) Banzai...the bigtime double pendulum on the "Seagull," then ascend a traversing overlap to the belay. You'll need some hooks too. Second will need to know how to rig a rappel "lower-out" for the beginning of the pitch. Gear to 2". Many say that retreat is impossible after this pitch, but it sure looked like there were easy anchors to reach directly below (Wall of Early Morning Light?).

P7: (5.7, A2, 110 feet) C2 expando bricks in a crack directly above the belay. I popped and knocked my belayer, Kathy Dicker, unconscious. Later heard there's a bathook there. Another hook move to a dirt hummock. Mantle from the hook. Then a bolt ladder w/ widely spaced bolts and some bathooking. Gear to 2".

P8: (A2, 110 feet) Part of the Wall of Early Morning Light. Thin and flaring. Break out the HB offsets and cam hooks again. Gear to 2.5".

P9: (C2, 120 feet) Part of the Wall of Early Morning Light. More of the same with a few rivets here and there. Gear to 3.5".

P10: (A3- 130 feet) Thin and flaring. Not a gimme. Some fixed heads and rivets near the top. Gear to 3".

P11: (5.9, A3, 180 feet, circuituous) Starts with the worst broken rivet I've ever used. A #1 rivet hanger will get you to straightforward hooking. Use long slings to avoid rope drag when heading into the corner. Wide corner can be freed at 5.9 or aided at C1. Keep a big cam for the beginning of the arch (hard to see from below). Lots of cam-hooking in inverted placements or LAs between fixed heads. Awesome, sheltered hanging belay/bivy. Gear to 7".

P12: (A2 110 feet) The "Molar" Traverse. Inverted cam hooks to rivets/bolts. Bigtime pendulum. Look for the "shoe rubber marks" to find the right spot to swing. Iffy 1/4" bolts for belay if you stop here like we did. Gear to 1.5".

P13: (5.5, C3 80 feet) Apparently can be linked w/ Pitch 12. Bolt ladder to technical, flaring placements in expanding corner. Some hooking on fractured flakes, more expando, then easy free to belay stance. One of the harder pitches. Gear to 3.5".

P14: (5.9, C1 140 feet) Ugly offwidth/squeeze chimney, hard to aid. Then out arching flake. Gear to 7".

P15: (A2+ 150 feet) Tough rivet ladder w/ bat hooking and bad dowels. Not a gimme. Expanding flake at the end. Take some big hooks and watch the rope drag. Gear to 1".

P16: (A3- 140 feet) Hooking above the belay to some manky fixed heads to some more hooking to some more heads to a steep bolt/rivet ladder. Gear to 1.5".

P17: (A2+ 130 feet) Lots of rivets, I backcleaned a bit to save rivet hangers. Arch/corner begins w/ some manky fixed heads then flaring/offset expando to horizontal roof/flake. Clip fixed pin and walk green/yellow Aliens to a rivet ladder. Take the time to rig where your leadline crosses the sharp roof or chop your Second. Gear to 2".

P18: (5.7+ 100 feet, circuituous) I climbed this pitch free, by headlamp, in 5.10 El Cap boots, so it's not that bad if you follow the line of least resistance. Kinda non-obvious though. Very little gear to 2". I think I put in 3 pieces for the entire pitch, but even though the climbing is all over the place, you can save your Second by placing minimal gear in a straight line so he can just jug the pitch. Stellar bivy ledge at the "Bismark Hotel" We didn't even use the portaledge.

P19: (C1+ 165 feet) The dreaded "Bismark". C1 Cam leapfrog up gorgeous corner the REALLY wide. Looks hideous to free, overhanging and slick. Even aiding it was exhausting. Another good ledge, but sloping. Gear to 11".

P20: (A2, C2+ 180 feet) Watch your rope drag, there's a long way to go. Start up a wide, broken black diorite corner, then traverse to a fixed RURP that needs a tie-off, or just hook on it. More flaring pinscars. Pass a false belay and head up hollow flakes to a very narrow ledge. Gear to 3".

P21: (A2, C3+ 160 feet) Another very technical, thin Pitch. Head right on some tentative gear. I handplaced a LA in the first overlap/corner. Lots of offset cams, HBs and camhooks. The dowel mid-pitch can be wiggled with your fingers! More HB offsets up a VERY thin expanding flake. Gear to 2".

P22: (C2+ 140 feet) Rotten black diorite with some very sharp edges. Ugly flare too! Then it just gets thin and awkward. Blecch. Gear to 7". Some 1" and 2" cams for belay are nice.

P23: (C1+ 100 feet) Awkward, overhanging and flaring corner. Some bathooks help get you out of there. Pseudo-pendulum around corner to anchors at a sweet, huge and flat ledge. Gear to 3".

P24: (C2+ 110 feet) Watch your rope drag, if you're going to combine it with the next pitch like we did. Do a little backcleaning and use some longish slings. Awkward flare. REALLY bad bolts for belay if you stop here. Gear to 3.5" with extra 1" to 2".

P25: (5.8, C2, or C2 80 feet) Most often combined with Pitch 24. Some good gear to loose flakes that are either free climbed or hooked with FISH hooks. Send your hooks back down the haul line to your Second and achieve Sainthood. The pigs really fly if you loose them from the Pitch 24 ledge. Gear to 1.5".

P26: (5.5, A2+ 120 feet) Almost there! Aliens and cam hooks above the belay to rivets and more cam hooks. A few hook moves on creaky flakes will see you to the final overhanging rivet ladder. At the end, take a second and check out the view! Hook and free climb over the edge then anchor to a Pine tree. Rig your haul over the edge (at least the first one) or hate life. Pad the lead line where it goes over both edges or chop your Second. Gear to 1".

P27: (4th 80 feet) Many parties stay roped up and fix a line for the traverse right to another big Pine and flat ground. No pro.

Crack open the summit beers!

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